The global pandemic has changed the way we communicate—not just with our colleagues and loved ones but with clients as well. And as we go more and more online, there are certain rules and etiquette that we need to be aware of in order to come across the way we intend to when conducting business online.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, there are actually many terms and phrases that those very familiar with email etiquette know to avoid. In fact, many cliche, or common phrases may actually make you look weak in an email, rather than confident and courteous.
Looking to improve your perception in your email communications? We’ve rounded up a handful of words and phrases that are known to make you look weak in an email—and exactly what you should be saying instead if you want to come off as confident and self-assured. From avoiding saying you’re sorry to side-stepping certain email cliches, here’s what you should and shouldn’t be saying in your emails.
“I don’t know if you are able to help me…”
According to Kristine Daub, Founder of ByCurated, writing something like, “I don’t know if you can help me,” implies two things. “The first is that you are unsure about whether someone can facilitate a function.
At any level of business, you should have an understanding of the roles of your colleagues, suppliers, customers, etc,” says Daub. “The second thing that it implies is that you are beneath the person you are seeking help from.”
“I just wanted to check in…”
We are often polite when we mean to be direct. If we are expecting a reply and haven’t heard anything, we often use phrases like ‘I’m just emailing to check whether you received my invoice’ or ‘I just wanted to check in to…’
“This makes use appear that we are sorry to bother this person who actually owes us an explanation, instead of coming out and saying ‘you haven’t paid my invoice, please make sure you give it your attention,’” suggests Joe Wilson is the Senior Career Advisor at MintResume.
“I hope this email finds you well.”
“This is a very cliche sentence that you don’t want to use in your emails today. It might sound nice and harmless, but it’s just so overused that it makes you look like a beginner,” explains Candace Helton, Operations Director at Ringspo. “But of course, you’d still want to communicate empathy!”
Helton suggests trying other phrases such as, ‘hope your week is looking good,’ or ‘the past months may have been challenging for many businesses, but I hope your plans are going well.’ Then proceed with your main point.
Unless you’ve done something that warrants a sincere apology, don’t say that you’re sorry in your emails. According to Helton, things like ‘sorry for bothering you’ or ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ are pretty weak approaches.
“You’re positioning yourself as the lesser person and you can come off as cynical. You have to respect yourself and assert yourself as part of the team.” Be more confident and try something like ‘when you have the time, I’d very much appreciate your feedback on…’
“Looking forward to hearing from you.”
“This is one of the most commonly used phrases in email, be it a professional or a friendly type of email,” says James Bullard, Founder of SoundFro. “And in our business, we have to be more direct in what we want as we want our intentions to be clear. The same goes for everyone.”
Hence, Bullard suggests directly saying what you want. Instead of saying ‘looking forward to hearing from you,’ say directly what they have to do after reading your email. Say the time you are available for a call, an email response, or a meetup. This would make things easier for both parties.
“My apologies for the late response…”
We often get late email responses and come with them is the generic phrase and if you are one of those individuals who are sending it, you might end up irritating the recipient instead of getting a kind sympathy.
“Instead of this cliche, find a way to show your appreciation,” suggests Daniel Carter, Founder of Zippy Electrics. “For instance, say something like, ‘thanks for waiting and for your patience while I rummage my bombarded inbox.’”
This won’t just resolve your issue of apologizing, but it will also aid you in appreciating the person who would receive your email.
“I feel like…”
Carrying yourself with strength and confidence in writing is something you learn over time, and for anyone willing to be self-critical enough to develop this skill, the first thing they should do, according to Rolf Bax, Chief Human Resources Officer at Resume.io, is eliminate the words ‘I feel’ from their repertoire.
“I have noticed ‘I feel’ has gradually started to replace the much more confident ‘I think’ when conveying an opinion on something, which is unfortunate, because ‘I feel’ qualifies a statement as not only highly subjective, but rooted in emotion–two things that can make you appear weak,” explains Bax.
“Would it be possible…”
According to Nina Jensen, Community Outreach Manager for 8×8, you should never use language that implies insecurity or passivity when writing emails. Phrases like ‘would it be possible…’ or ‘I hate to bother you…’ unnecessarily bloat emails with extra words and undermine the main message you’re trying to send.
“If you’re actually concerned with wasting the time of your colleagues and superiors, you should instead focus on keeping your message as concise and impactful as possible,” says Jensen. “Using stronger, shorter language means you have a higher impact on your reader with fewer words used.”